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Minnesota sports, as seen elsewhere

First baseball at U.S. Bank Stadium: 6 a.m. start, positive reviews

The first pitch at U.S. Bank Stadium left the mound just after 6 a.m. and almost an hour before sunrise Friday morning. Yet, more than 100 fans arrived early for the first-ever baseball game at the billion-dollar stadium.

The Twin Cities’ newest baseball diamond didn’t give up much offense in its debut. Iowa Central won the first game of a doubleheader 1-0 and Century College of White Bear Lake won the second game 3-0 in extra innings.

The teams paid for five hours on the field and used the final 75 minutes to scrimmage against one another without umpires. 

The players offered positive reviews about the indoor field and its almost 100 percent turf surface. Some players voiced concerns about the way ground balls bounce and how the turf effects sliding. The only dirt on the field is a small patch on the pitcher’s mound. The batter’s and catcher’s box are dirt-colored turf and the infield, including the area surrounding the bases, are green turf.

The first game briefly paused in late innings while the stadium lights were adjusted after the sun had risen. Some of the high fly balls and pop ups caused trouble for outfielders and infielders. The ping of metal bats and the pop of pitches hitting the catcher’s mitt were all amplified by the loud echo the stadium creates.

“It was great to be out here playing baseball. Just a beautiful facility in here. Can’t ask for anything better,” said Mike Schiller, Century’s freshman catcher. “[The field] was phenomenal. It’s hard to get used to bounces. ... It seems like the ball flies pretty well in here, so I have a feeling it’s a good balanced ballpark.”

Schiller drove in the go-ahead run for the Ducks in their extra-innings victory.

The Gophers play their first game at the stadium Friday at 6:30 p.m. against Seattle University. Immediately after that game ends, Minot State and Crookston will play the stadium’s fourth game of the day. It is scheduled for a 10 p.m. start.   

Watch and hear the sights and sounds from the first baseball game at U.S. Bank Stadium in the above player or here

Tournament bid means $50,000 bonus for Pitino; more bonuses within reach

Richard Pitino declared to his players after Wednesday night’s victory, “There is no more talk about the NCAA tournament. We’re talking about seeds in the NCAA tournament.”

The Gophers all-but secured their spot on the March Madness dance floor after upsetting No. 24 Maryland 89-75 in College Park, Md. Pitino’s team moved into the top four in the Big Ten standings and in position for a double bye in the conference tournament.

Wednesday night’s victory also all-but guaranteed Pitino a $50,000 bonus. His contract stipulates a $50,000 payment each year the Gophers make the NCAA tournament.

The incentives don’t stop there.

If the Gophers finish with a winning record in the Big Ten regular season, Pitino gets another $50,000. The Gophers are 9-6 with three games to play -- meaning one more victory locks up that check (conference tournament games don’t count against the Big Ten record).

The $50,000 Big Ten regular-season champion bonus would require a lot of help from the rest of the league, but a co-championship scenario is still possible. If the Gophers win the Big Ten tournament, add $25,000 to Pitino’s account.

Some observers are starting to buzz about Big Ten Coach of the Year honors for Pitino. That would come with a $25,000 bonus. National Coach of the Year, perhaps unlikely unless the Gophers make a deep run in the NCAAs, would run up another $50,000.

Wait, there’s more.

Pitino gets $50,000 if the Gophers advance to the Sweet 16, and – we’re getting too far ahead, but hey, it is written in his contract – another $50,000 if they make the Final Four. A national championship? That’s a $100,000 bonus.

Add it all up and Pitino is line for at least a $100,000 bump, and that could double, or more, if the Gophers stay hot.

And Pitino likely won’t be the only coach on campus cashing bonus checks.

Men’s hockey coach Don Lucia has his team on top of the Big Ten standings and ranked No. 4 in the nation.

Winning the Big Ten regular-season championship would activate a $30,000 bonus for Lucia. His teams have won five consecutive conference championships and on pace for six in a row. If the Gophers win the Big Ten tournament, his bonus will increase another $15,000.

Like Pitino’s Gophers, Lucia’s team has moved beyond consideration for the NCAA tournament and is focused on seeding – a No. 1 seed could be in the team’s future -- so Lucia can bank on his $15,000 tournament bonus.

If the Gophers advance to the regional final, Lucia earns another $30,000. A berth in the Frozen Four is worth $50,000, and winning the national championship worth another $75,000 bonus.

Lucia’s bonus for coaching honors is limited to National Coach of the Year and worth $10,000. Though he’s likely not a favorite for this honor, he has restored excitement around the program one year after the team finished just above .500 and missed the NCAA tournament.

Add up all of Lucia’s incentives and his bonus check could be worth $215,000.

The two coaches combined could earn around a half-million dollars in bonuses this spring. Many would argue they’ve earned it – especially if NCAA tournament runs are involved.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

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  • Twins at Boston (spring training)

    12:05 pm on MLBN, 96.3-FM

  • Penn State at Gophers men's basketball

    2 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Bemidji State at Gophers women's hockey

    4:07 pm

  • Wisconsin at Gophers men's hockey

    7 pm on FSN PLUS, 1500-AM

  • Timberwolves at Houston

    8 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Gophers women's basketball at Maryland

    11 am on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Minnesota United FC vs. San Antonio

    11:30 am

  • Washington at Twins (spring training)

    12:05 pm on 96.3-FM

  • Bemidji State at Gophers women's hockey (if nec.)

    4:07 pm

  • Miami at Twins (spring training)

    12:05 pm

  • Los Angeles at Wild

    7 pm on NBCSN, 100.3-FM

  • Timberwolves at Sacramento

    9:30 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Tampa Bay at Twins (spring training)

    12:05 pm

  • Wild at Winnipeg

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Pittsburgh at Twins (spring training)

    12:05 pm on 96.3-FM

  • Timberwolves at Utah

    8 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Twins at Baltimore (spring training)

    12:05 pm

  • Wild at Columbus

    6 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Twins at Philadelphia (spring training)

    12:05 pm

  • Gophers men's hockey at Michigan

    5:30 pm on ESPNEWS, 1500-AM

  • Minnesota United FC at Portland

    8:30 pm on FS1

Poll: Which Gophers team will make the deepest run in the postseason?

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Today's Scoreboard

  • Toronto


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